Q5: What are some basic strategies an analyst can use to find the right data at the right time? – Part 1

Several years ago I came across a book called the Accidental Analyst. After reading the book I was inspired to come up with a way to teach analytics to college students and fresh graduates.

The core of both the book and my program hinges on the ability of an analyst to find the right data at the right time.  The authors suggested that identifying your data is where it all starts. Identifying exactly what you need to address whatever it is that you need to report.

When I am training newbies, I generally brake finding data into two parts… the process of getting the data and the process of making sure the data is valid.

Back at Wells Fargo, the single greatest attribute that I had that made me successful was my ability to size up how long it would take me to deliver something. Knowing what data I would need, where I would find it and how long it would take me to analyze it to come up with something useful made me somewhat of a wizard in the minds of the team.

Finding the right data at the right time requires one to first off know their data. You have to know how the data is captured, where it is stored and how it makes it way to you. Knowing the data architecture in your business is the key.

So you have to get to know the people who know where you data comes from and how it gets there. Learn from them. Partner with them. Buy them doughnuts.

A few months ago I came across an analogy being used to describe data in a business. That of a data lake. A data lake is the living, breathing, evolving pool of all the data in a business. If you have a good data architecture, and you can navigate it fairly easily, then you have a data lake.  Ideally, your business has data structured in such a way you can live off it. Data to a business is like water to living things… it sustains life


So once you have the lake mapped out, then you have to learn how to fish it. Knowing where the fish are biting is another key. Once you know what data you need, you have to know how to get to it quickly.

Business Intelligence tools help us here. As does coding languages to extract data from a database. These are your fishing tools. You have to practice using them to be good at getting the right data at the right time.

Another way to optimize your data search is to save your work. Of as I call it leave yourself breadcrumbs. Save the query. Cut and paste the code into a document and save it. Write down the steps. Whatever you need to do to replicate what you just did so you can do it again in the future without starting over from scratch.

So to recap, how to you find the right data at the right time? You know its structure, you understand how its stored and you leave yourself clues to do things faster next time.

Now the other part of the equation is knowing if the data you are using is the right data. Finding data quickly doesn’t do you any good if you bring back the wrong data. We’ll talk about data validation and data quality in a future post.

The Fundamental of Business Analytics – Business Analytics is the application of talent, technology and technique on business data for the purpose of extracting insights and discovering opportunities. DMAIPH specializes in empowering organizations, schools, and businesses with a mastery of the fundamentals of business analytics. Contact DMAIPH now at analytics@dmaiph.com or connect with me directly to find out how you can strengthen your business analytics fundamentals.


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